How to Get a Ring Out of the Drain

By Vernon Trollinger, June 20, 2017, Home Improvement

How to Get a Ring Out of the Drain | Bounce Energy Blog

 

How to Retrieve Items Lost Down the Drain

Losing a ring down a drain can be a painful blend of embarrassment and frustration.  It’s an ancient plot device for a TV situation comedy: the soon-to-be bride loses her expensive engagement ring down the drain but wants to conceal the fact from her soon-to-be spouse. So she secretly hires a plumber to come retrieve it only to learn that in the middle of the plumber’s visit that her soon-to-be spouse has brought over her soon-to-be relatives to marvel at the ring. And the hijinks ensure as she tries to conceal the plumber’s presence and there’s jealousy and hasty assumptions of infidelity. Suddenly, the engagement totters on the brink of disaster…

You get the idea. But more to the real point, anything that accidentally goes down the drain like rings, coins, little plastic toys, small makeup items, can create a real tragic mess by clogging the drain or the sewer line if it gets further down. But, if you manage the problem with aplomb and the right tools, it’s pretty easy to retrieve things from a drain and avert a real disaster.

It’s a Trap!

Let’s say you have managed to lose your expensive engagement ring down a sink drain. The first thing to do right away is to turn off the water from faucet so that it doesn’t get washed beyond the drain trap.

Drains have traps to prevent dangerous sewer gases from entering the living space. Traps work by holding small amounts of water in them to keep the gases back. Curiously enough, the first U-shaped trap that provided reliable flow to waste water was invented by Thomas Crapper in 1880. You can still purchase distinctive Crapper plumbing fittings.

Traps also catch objects that accidentally fall down the drain. For that reason, many bathroom sink traps have clean out openings built onto the bottom, which is a great convenience IF the object you’re after can fit through the clean out opening. If you can’t get it out through the clean out, or there isn’t one, you’ll have to remove the trap.

 

Drain Assembly.

In the photo above, the sink drain pipe is the gray. It fits into the trap pipe, called a “J” trap. The trap is connected to the trap arm which leads to the house’s sewer line. To keep the connections water tight, the pipes are connected by compression fittings. The sink drain pipe has a compression collar and gasket placed on it where it fits into the J-trap. Tightening the collar squeezes the gasket and creates a tight, leak-free seal. The trap arm connects to the trap in much the same way; in this case ours already has a gasket molded onto it.

Draining the Drain

How to Get a Ring Out of the Drain | Bounce Energy Blog

Once you’ve cleared everything out from beneath the sink to give you room to work, you’ll need to put a small bucket underneath the trap. This is to catch all the water that’s still in the trap plus the ring (or other item) you’re trying to retrieve.

How to Get a Ring Out of the Drain | Bounce Energy Blog

Next, unscrew the both of the collars on the trap. Plastic ones are usually only hand-tightened to prevent being damaged but metal (usually chrome) ones can be harder to unscrew. If you have a hard time, try using a pair of long handled pliers, sometimes called gas or water pump pliers (see photo).

Once you’ve disconnected the trap, carefully dump the contents in the bucket.

How to Get a Ring Out of the Drain | Bounce Energy Blog

In addition to gunk and hair, you should find what you’re looking to retrieve.

Once you’ve gotten the trap emptied, look it over and give it a good washing out to clear any other gunk that might be restricting flow. Then reinstall the trap. For plastic collars, make sure you’ve got the collar threads lined up properly and then tighten by hand. You don’t want to use pliers because over-tightening could crack the collars or the pipe. If you have trouble with the last few turns, put a rag around the collar to help your grip.

Lastly, run water from the faucet and keep an eye out for leaks.

TIP—If the drain pipes are chrome and are more than 20 years old, there is a fair chance that they might be corroded on the inside. Sometimes, corrosion can be so bad that they are paper thin and they’ll fall apart in your hands as you begin disassembling. In this case, it’s important to retrieve the item you’re after first and then replace the damaged pipe. To keep that job simple, be sure to take some of the pieces with you to the hardware store so you can find the size of replace parts you need.

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About 

A native of Wyomissing Hills, PA, Vernon Trollinger studied writing and film at the University of Iowa, later earning his MA in writing there as well. Following a decade of digging in CRM archaeology, he now writes about green energy technology, home energy efficiency, DIY projects, the natural gas industry, and the electrical grid.

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